On December 23, 2002, Father Nature announced to the Z scale community a new line of 33' woodside billboard reefers. Ztrack first ran photos of these cars in the January/February 2003 issue. This new body style with attractive historical advertising quickly grabbed the attention of Z scalers. John Kreider owned Father Nature, this was his first foray into Z scale rolling stock. Prior to this car release, John offered a line of Z scale accessories.
John partnered with Pennzee on the design and implementation of the line. The cars were produced for John by Bowser Manufacturing in Montoursville, PA., the products were distributed exclusively by Pennzee.
Father Nature packaged the cars in Model Power boxes. A small white sticker was applied to the box lid to hide the Model Power logo. Each box has a bright yellow insert and a vacuum formed cradle for the car.
The cars were sold as mixed four packs. The first release included the Heinz (5001), Pluto Water (5005), Gold Medal (5006) and Blatz (5007) reefers.
In October of 2003, Father Nature released their second mixed four pack. Photos of these cars first appeared in the September/October 2003 issue of Ztrack Magazine. The four pack consisted of Edelweiss (5008), White Rock (5009), Berkshire (5010) and Crazy Crystal (5011).
This would be the last release from Father Nature. These cars were available for a number of years throughout dealer channels, but soon sold out. During the same period, John Kreider became ill. On January 29, 2010, John passed away at the age of 72.
The line quickly became a legend in Z scale and the cars were long sought after. Those new to the hobby searched them out. Over time, many of the original four packs were sold separately and single cars would occasionally be found on sites like Ztrack Resale. Pricing for the single cars rose quickly. It is not uncommon to see these cars sell for $50 - $150 per car.
Meanwhile, a rumor had been circulating that inventory remained of the original run. What was more intriguing was that the rumor included a notion that there may be cars existing that were never released. This rumor turned out to be true; these cars were produced but stored for a future release date. John's widow, Kathleen, was in possession of the inventory including the never before released cars.
Kathleen passed away at the age of 78 on July 22, 2015. As the family began the process of settling her estate after her passing, the inventory was discovered again. These cars had been stored in boxes in the basement since 2003.
In April of this year, a post appeared on Trainboard stating that a number of Father Nature products would be sold at a train show. Ztrack reached out to the poster and was directed to Scale Model Railroaders, owned by John Cassel. John was working with the family to liquidate the collection. He confirmed the rumors of the cars, and more importantly, the lost inventory of unreleased cars indeed existed. Ztrack arranged a deal to purchase the complete inventory. This includes the remaining woodside reefers, as well as accessories, Pennzee card kits and other assorted Z scale products.
We are excited to introduce the four missing Father Nature cars to the Z community. These are: Old Dutch (5012), Pabst (5013), A&P (5015) and Yanks (5016). These cars will be released in their original form. The packaging carries the original labeling for Father Nature. Even though the contact information is no longer valid, we believe it to be more important to keep these cars as they were intended to be released.
In addition to the cars, Ztrack will be offering through our different channels the accessories and other assorted products. The cars and many key accessories will be available through Ztrack Distribution and our authorized dealers (such as Zscale Monster Trains).
John's small role in Z scale is a lasting one. These early innovators of Z helped pave the way for where Z is today. Ztrack is honored to continue to share his vision with the Z scale community. In closing, I would like to honor John Kreider by ending this piece with the tag line that was included in his first email to me in 2002.